“Therefore go…”

And Katy therefore went.

Our church is missions partners with a church in Villa Altagracia, Domincan Republic called Good Shepherd Baptist Church.

Katy, who had been brushing up on her Spanish in the weeks before leaving, said it took her a few days to realize pastor is Spanish for shepherd.

The youth go on this trip every year but I wasn’t sure if Katy would ever get a chance. The church is in a neighboring county and that’s where most of the students at church attend school. Usually the two districts have their spring breaks back to back so they do the trip something like Wednesday-Tuesday or Thursday-Wednesday so no one has to miss a full week of school. I wasn’t sure about Katy missing even two or three days. Well, this year both districts had spring break the same week and we didn’t have to go to Texas and plan an anniversary party. So we signed her up and put her to work earning some money toward it. Thank you to everyone who bought banana bread, the thank-you notes are coming.

This church also has a school and the students volunteered at both locations. They also wanted to do a day on beach and Friday was the best day for that. There were 27 students and eight adults, the maximum number the trip can handle.  This was the biggest group they’ve had in five years, probably because of the spring break situation. The plan had been for the trip to be from Monday to Saturday but then it was changed to Tuesday-Sunday as a Saturday night stay dropped the airfare by half.

They had to be at the Atlanta airport at 6:45 in the morning, pretty rough for a bunch of non-morning people like us. And at 5:30 a.m. we were not the only ones on the highway!

The whole group minus Kep, the youth minister, who had to go deal with a supply suitcase that turned out to be 25 pounds overweight. But that’s not as bad as last year when a parent who was donating a grocery bag full of Bibles put said bag on top of a trash can while she stepped a few feet away to take the group picture. They turned around and the bomb-sniffing dogs were all over that bag. Kep said they didn’t get it back.

Katy ended up in an aisle seat on the plane both directions but someone got some photos out the window.

I remember reading once that baseball is big in the DR. Look at those nice fields.

She did get some photos during the two-hour bus ride from the airport.

They stayed in a nearby special events resort called Villas Matata. They only host one group at a time, which is nice.




















This is the house Katy stayed in. It’s three stories, you just can’t see much behind the trees.

Katy trying to hang up her mosquito net on her bed. The house had barred windows with no screens for ventilation so no way to keep the skeeters out.

There was a peacock on the premises that Katy was very impressed with.

It took a few tries but they finally got him to open his feathers.

And if there’s a chicken around, Katy will find it. She said there were cute chicks, too.

They got to the resort around 4 on Tuesday so they were up and at work Wednesday morning.

The kids were divided into three groups, teaching VBS to pre-schoolers, ESL with the grade schoolers and building a cinder block wall for the church. The six or so guys on the trip all signed up to do the construction and the girls divided up the teaching. Katy signed up for ESL as she does know enough Spanish to muddle her way through. ESL was on Wednesday and Thursday and VBS was Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. They wanted to spend a day at the beach as well and Friday turned out to be the best day for that. They rented a house to get access to a private beach and Saturday rentals were way expensive.

The school was two long yellow buildings with the gravely area in between.

Katy was leading a game in the ESL class. She told the kids “when you receive the ball” because she couldn’t think of the word for catch but she said one of the teachers used received, too, so she figured she was OK.

This was VBS on Saturday. She was teaching these kids to sing a Baby Sharks, a favorite camp song. She ended up teaching it in English because she didn’t know the Spanish word for shark. Overall, she said she felt like she did pretty well with her Spanish. She had a conversation with a little girl who was just shocked by the fact Katy doesn’t have any brothers or sisters. And that she was there and her parents were in the states.

And the girls decided her hair wasn’t braided right and re-did it for her.

So while the girls were teaching and singing and playing the boys were hard at work.

They said dresses were the best for working at the school so I bought Katy a bunch of cheap dresses from Wal-Mart. I just threw in the suitcase, the last time I bought a dress for Katy at Wal-Mart it shrunk an entire size the first time I washed and dried it.  They had to dress up a little for worship services in the evening.

When you travel enough you learn one things, kids all over are pretty much alike and some things are just universal.

Drawing with sidewalk chalk

Clapping games

Riding on a big person’s shoulders

Blowing bubbles (the bubbles were one reason the suitcase was overweight!)

Doing each others’ hair. I didn’t see a photo of the end result.

And Friday was a day at the beach.

Katy said someone was selling coconuts for a dollar (the inflated tourist price, I’m sure) and he would put a hole in it for you to drink the water then you took it back and he would crack it open and make a spoon from the husk so you could eat the inside. Katy doesn’t really like coconut water but she got one anyway.

She also was excited to have learned to harvest almonds. She said she picked up something on the beach that looked like a lemon but wasn’t. She asked one of the chaperones, who grew up in Jamaica (and as an added bonus for the trip was fluent in Spanish). She explained that it was almond fruit and showed Katy how to open the fruit (which is edible), get the seed out and then crack open the seed to get to the nut. Now I know why almonds are so expensive.

And speaking of food. Kep had suggested the kids take some American snacks as he said “beans, chicken and rice might get old”. So I sent Katy some stuff for her and to share. She came back with nearly everything except the Pop-Tarts, which she gave away. Ever since Katy was little we’ve made it a point to introduce her to a wide variety of ethnic foods, plus she’s not picky as long as there are no raw tomatoes involved. When we picked Katy up on Sunday Heath mentioned to one of the dad’s who had gone that Katy was used to eating different types of foods and he said “it shows”. Katy said breakfast and dinner were at the resort and more familiar foods. They had two different types of juice every morning and she said she played “guess the juice” each morning. Lunch was provided by the church and was local foods. She said one girl loved the plantains and declared each different rice dish “the best rice ever”.

And they made it safely home Sunday. Three of the chaperones made a point of telling us that Katy did a really good job and showed real leadership skills. Katy said the second-graders adopted her. Little kids do seem to flock to her.

We picked Katy up and on the way home stopped at Wendy’s for dinner. Katy, who never says much, talked for two solid hours. That’s where I got all the information for this blog. It was a great week and a wonderful experience for Katy.

And Buddy was so glad to have her home.

She bought a few souvenirs, too. Lots of jewelry on the beach and then some items at the airport.

The church gave everyone gifts. Katy loves sea turtles so this was especially meaningful for her.





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